The 10 year war's villain & biases

Francois Gautier Book review Sunday 16 th oct Book review of The 9/11wars by Jason Bruke Burke writes that `in 2010, nearly 3/4th of Pakistan identified India as the greatest threat,' but he does not mention that India's role in the war against Islamic terrorism The 9/11 Wars, written by Jason Burke, the New Delhi-based South Asia correspondent of the Guardian (UK), is an extremely well written book that seeks to document the invasions, bombings, battles and riots that broke after the World Trade Centre attacks of September 11, 2001, which have since then cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Based on hundreds of interviews with militants, refugees, senior intelligence officials and ordinary people, Burke attempts to reveal the true nature of contemporary Islamic militancy and the inside story of the fight against it. 

Indeed, his research has been so thorough that the notes, bibliography and index, run into more than 200 pages, nearly one-third of the book. Right from the first pages of The 9/11 Wars, one can feel Burke's determination to keep a distance both from Islamic fundamentalism, as well as with the Western point of view, incarnated by the US and its allies, Britain being the foremost one. This is the strength of the book: “But if there has been no defeat for the West then there has been no victory either,“ he writes. “Over the past 10 years, the limits of the ability of the US and its Western allies to impose their will on parts of the world have been very publicly revealed.“ At times, though, he appears more severe with the US: “Even though now facing serious problems of debt, America has nonetheless been able to pay for the grotesque strategic error of the war in Iraq, at a total cost of up to a trillion dollars depending on how it is calculated, and a 10-year conflict in Afghanistan, all the while financing a huge security industry at home.“ But it is also its weakness. 

For example, one of Burke's spiel is that the Arab Spring protests that have toppled three dictators, were triggered by the sacrifice of ordinary Arabs, such as Mohamed Bouazizi, a disgruntled Tunisian street vendor who set fire to himself last December. As Burke points out, “while Bouazizi did not deem it necessary to drag 3,000 other souls with him to Paradise, he achieved an impact that Osama bin Laden could only dream of.“ Some of us would disagree with that assessment. Hosni Mubarak, for instance, was an enlight ened dictator: he kept the deadly Muslim Brotherhood at bay, did not irrationally hate Jews and women under his reign had secular freedom. The Arab Spring in Egypt has had dubious results: Christians are again persecuted, the relation with Israel has worsened and freedoms have been curtailed. This is a review that will be mostly read by Indians. Let us then take a look at what it says about India and Islamic terrorism. While the index on Pakistan runs into nearly three pages, the references to India take only 11 lines! This symbolises the West’s obsession with Pakistan, embodied by successive US Presidents, who think that you can fight terrorism by propping up the one nation from which most of the Islamic terrorism, including the one directed at India, comes from. 

 What does Jason Burke say on Kashmir? “The Pakistani involvement in Kashmir was re-energised in 1989, as local Muslims in the state rose against the discriminatory and often brutal role that had been imposed by New Delhi”. Well, I happened to cover Kashmir extensively in the early 1990s for Le Figaro, and I remember how, one by one, the leaders of the Hindu community in the valley — L. Taploo, N.K. Ganjoo, Kishen Gopal, M.L. Bhan, Lassa Kaul — were killed, leading to the exodus of the Pandit community. The Indian Army then was more of a bystander than an active participant. It’s the militants who forced a war upon India. Burke seems to have taken a cue from Mark Tully who would always say: “The Indian government accuses Pakistan to foster Kashmir separatism”, implying it was not true. Of course, time proved him wrong. Burke also fails to explain why fundamentalist Islam, with its immense persecution complex, thinks it can fight the entire world — and win. But it cannot: not against the might of the US — which, whatever its arrogance, came forward when freedom was threatened in the world — and the whole of Europe and India and maybe China one day, if Pakistan continues to secretly sponsor Muslim separatism in Xinjiang. 

Although Jason Burke rightly points out that “in 2010, nearly three-fourth of the population of Pakistan identified India as the greatest threat to their country,” he does not mention that India’s role in the war against Islamic terrorism is extremely vital. Firstly because of its strategic position, with Kashmir, Pakistan and Afghanistan on one side, and the potential Islamic temptation in Indonesia, Java or China, on the other. And lastly because India, with its ancient tradition of Sufism, its enlightened Muslim community leaders such as Azim Premji, who is an Ismaili Muslim, perhaps Islam’s most liberal branch, may be the only place in the world where Islam might come to terms with the fact that it needs to reform itself to adapt to the 21st century. But first, Muslims need to come out strongly against Islamic terrorism; without always using Kashmir or Palestine or Chechnya as an excuse for the ramming of planes full of innocent people on buildings full of innocent people.

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